Sunday, June 22, 2014

Second Sunday After Pentecost (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: Matthew 10:31
Theme: Of Fear, Faith, Hair and Sparrows

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The fallen sparrow is noted. Not one perishes apart from the heavenly Father. Truly that is a stunning thought to consider. The Almighty God, occupied with the rule of the universe, managing powers and principalities for the sake of His church- cares for sparrows. And His care is not merely a matter of generic omniscience, that is, because God is all-seeing and all-knowing we might think the fallen sparrow is merely logged somewhere in the divine record books. No, Jesus Christ wishes to convey to us the intimate care He has for His creation. Sparrows can illustrate the gospel.

But, of course, sparrows aren’t the primary subject of our Scriptures today. They are referenced only for comparative purposes. Today Jesus strikes right at the heart of the issues of fear and faith. He sets in juxtaposition temporal concerns and eternal security. The vulnerability of Christians is characterized by their lack of trust when facing opposition for following the truth. Fear can easily overcome us, but in the final measure God must be our refuge or we prove that our faith was only hollow in the end, or at least misplaced. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”1

Now what kind of application does this have in a context in which Christianity is not yet prohibited, but increasingly marginalized? The relevant question is, “What do we fear?” How many indeed, are the fears that nag us, cause us anxiety, and even incapacitate us! One of the most common symptoms of fear is worry. Worry is among those particularly persistent sins. We worry about our finances. We worry about our health. We worry about other people’s opinions. We worry about our safety. We worry about the future. We worry about being opposed or ridiculed for our Christian faith. And the list of lesser things that we worry about can be multiplied without end.

Often our fears are hidden. We become masters at disguising them. We cleverly avoid things we should be able to face. We make excuses and absent ourselves when we know our presence is needed. Worry eats up our time and energy. Sometimes people are none the wiser. But we are probably transparent to those who know us best. We are certainly transparent to God. Many things that we worry about never even come to pass.

At the root of the problem is lack of trust. We prioritize our worries and fears- sometimes subconsciously- often giving little thought to God’s warnings or promises. Jesus says, “Whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown before My Father in heaven.”2 Do you think it is not an offence to Him when we fail to pray to Him in time of need and banish any thought that He is willing to help? It is no small sin (though often excused away) when we only turn to God in the last resort. It denies to Him compassion, power, and glory. We must continually be convicted for such lack of trust. The sun will shine and the rain will fall because He is benevolent. Do you really think God is aloof? Do you really think He will fail you?

Falling sparrows and numbered hairs teach us otherwise. God is not full of empty words. The Scriptures are not obsolete historical narratives. Remember Christ said last week, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”3 He said before that, “I will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth.”4 Christ left the glories of heaven and humbled Himself by assuming our human flesh. In so doing He embraced the full range of human frailty. Jesus Christ faced a greater fear than we could ever imagine. As the cross loomed before Him He prayed in the garden, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”5 Was it not there, before He was even on the cross that He suffered the greatest agony of soul to the point that His sweat dripped as blood? Yet He made the sacrifice, paying the price for our sins and defeating death, hell and Satan.

We can face even the deepest fears knowing He lives to give us life. As we live in our baptisms we know that all things- even our greatest failures- are resolved by Him in the end. Baptism has eternal implications precisely because it depends not only on the Holy Spirit’s work, but because it connects us with the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. The apostle says we are participants through baptism in His sacrificial death and His victorious life. “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him…in the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”6

What does it mean to count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God? It means we have no need to be self-serving. It means that the power of the Spirit at work in us is greater than the power of fear. It means Christ is not only our example, but our strength, our refuge, our constant companion and attendant. Satan’s main tactics are fear and deception but He is no match for God’s defences. We have the unshakeable promise of forgiveness. We have the fellowship of the one, holy, Christian and apostolic church. For those who receive it in faith Holy Communion is also an antidote to fear. It contains the promise and power of reconciliation. Reconciled to God, under His care, there is no power that can contest His love.

What could be more insignificant than a sparrow? What is more trivial than a single hair? Yet they do not escape His notice. They are incomparable to the value Christ places on your life. His own blood secured your salvation. The Bible says, “Perfect love drives out fear.”7 He is perfect love. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +
1 Matthew 10:28-31
2 Matthew 10:33
3 Matthew 28:20
4 John 14:16-17
5 Matthew 27:39
6 Romans 6:8-9, 11
7 1 John 4:18

Second Sunday After Pentecost
22 June 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt